Her advice to those considering working in adult social care? “Just go for it!”
Nikki has supported many people over the years, helping them have control over their lives and to achieve their dreams. She fondly remembers her time with Nicky Clark.
“Her dad knew she always wanted to go on a cruise – but thought it would be impossible, with having to use a hoist, getting her special food and medicine administered etcetera - but we managed to do that.
“We took the hoist, drove to the coast and went on an eight-day cruise to Norway. It was such a special moment – to be able to give her the same experience that you and I could have and perhaps might take for granted.
“She was a real princess – and went abroad in the Princess cruise ship. The amount of attention she got aboard was amazing, and you could see she was so pleased the whole time.”
Considering her career, Nikki says, “The best thing about working in adult social care is the freedom that we give to people we support. They are able to choose what they want to do – there’s no specific timetable, we’re giving people freedom of choice and the independence to make their own decisions.
“If you have the passion to make a difference in someone’s life, if you can teach someone some specific life skill – then go for it.
“It’s not all about the money. Come and see what it’s all about. It’s not mundane, every day is different, and the work is never boring. There are rewards every day – it’s not like stacking shelves.”
She says that she has “never felt more fulfilled” than now, supporting people with learning disabilities and autism.
Nikki has been working through the pandemic and admitted that it had been challenging at times, but that the people she supports have coped admirably.
“People didn’t understand why we needed to put masks on, so for some, it was quite frightening. The ladies wanted to be like us, so we gave them masks to wear as well – this made them feel more relaxed, they didn’t want to be different and that way they felt included.”
Ms Smith added that she was grateful that society finally seems to be recognising the importance of working in adult social care.
“At the beginning, it felt like we were not thought of as equal, we weren’t included. It was good to see this has changed – it was nice that we got noticed, that they were showing people in a care setting on the telly…I’m so glad it finally happened.”